x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Cut-price screening to curb disease

The Dubai Health Authority is offering preventative care packages at its public facilities.

Three cut-price packages, for women's health, diabetes and smoking, include visits to a doctor and tests at public health centres.
Three cut-price packages, for women's health, diabetes and smoking, include visits to a doctor and tests at public health centres.

DUBAI // Residents are being offered discounts on screening for life-threatening diseases.

Three cut-price packages, for women's health, diabetes and smoking, include visits to a doctor and tests at public health centres.

The high cost of screening and lack of insurance cover for preventive medicine often discourage people from having the tests they need, said Dr Maha Ali Hassan, acting head of business development and projects at Dubai Health Authority.

"We want patients to be able to utilise the services we have available at a reasonable price, for the sake of their health," Dr Hassan said.

The women's package includes two appointments with a doctor. One will include a complete blood test, a pap smear and a mammogram for women over 40. Patients will receive their results at a follow-up visit.

The package is available for Dh900 at Al Mankhool, Al Qusais and Nad Al Hammar primary healthcare centres.

The diabetes package includes four visits to a doctor, blood and urine tests, and dental and eye check-ups over a year. It is available at Al Safa and Al Twar centres for Dh1,500.

The package to help smokers to give up includes two visits to doctors at Al Twar centre, at a cost of Dh150.

Diabetes affects nearly a fifth of the population and cancer is the third-leading cause of death, so such initiatives are necessary to curb disease rates, experts say.

A survey by the DHA suggests 17 per cent of residents in Dubai are smokers, and men are five times more likely than women to smoke.

"Sometimes people need a boost to help them to cut habits in their life and this is our way of motivating them," Dr Hassan said.

Preventive healthcare needs to be better promoted, said Dr Ahmad Kalban, chief executive of primary healthcare at the DHA.

"Many patients visit the doctor only after they are affected with the disease," he said.

The packages cost 25 per cent less than scheduling each appointment individually, and are equal to the schemes offered in private centres, Dr Hassan said.

The average cost of a mammogram in private hospitals is between Dh400 and Dh600, while a pap smear costs about Dh150. These fees do not include consultations, which can be up to Dh200 each.

The authority plans to expand the programme to all its primary healthcare centres in the next two months, after evaluating patient response. It is also in negotiations with insurance companies to include the packages in their policies.

"Many of the insurance companies spend so much money treating the disease, so investing in these packages could mean savings in the long term," Dr Hassan said. "All this money could be saved if we just catch people early enough."

A report presented by the international healthcare provider UnitedHealth last year estimated Type 2 diabetes will affect nearly a third of the population by 2020, at a total cost of Dh31.3 billion.

The report said the UAE spent Dh2.4bn a year on medical costs related to diabetes and pre-diabetes, and that amount was expected to increase by 58 per cent to Dh3.82bn in the next eight years.

mismail@thenational.ae